The weeks of April and May, staying at home for an indefinite period of time, oozed by. My wife and I found other projects to keep busy with–cooking, painting, sharing positive ambitions with our sons, penciling out ideas for a political and environmental future in retirement. But to be honest, there was a lot of downtime for reading, walking, resting. My blood pressure has been down as well, nothing seems rushed anymore, everything is far from our household.
And then George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020. It’s now been almost two weeks, and if the onset of COVID-19 brought out some of the horrible greed and selfishness inherent in the two Americas, the protests and new possibilities in the wake of his brutal killing have begun to make our society look better. It’s now become clear that today we are coming to grips loudly and everywhere exposing the historical militarization of our country and the 400 years of oppression of generations of indigenous, enslaved, and immigrants who just happen to have colored skin.
So how has this affected me personally?
Sadly, I cannot find the courage to abandon my fear of getting the virus right now, to go out in the streets, and on the bridges, and join in manifest solidarity. I scan the media every few hours to find the inspiring courage of marchers who are STILL, in the eleventh day of protests, being harassed by fearful and reactionary but powerfully armed local and federal police forces, some from “liberal” cities that many of us assumed had purged themselves of bad apples and unforgivable conduct–but no. To each of these men and women, young and old, colored and white, who have been batoned, gassed, slammed to the ground, shot at with rubber and with lead, I want to say thank you, thank you for bringing out the problems in our society, and in my own ignorant and tolerant behavior. I am finding some hope in my children’s generation, who have started out largely neutral on race, and so have a better chance of creating a real anti-racist society. Perhaps if they lead us, my generation will make at least some changes in the right direction, instead of just continuing our painful history.
Locked up in my house, I will be looking for ways to help, and to make reparations.
And in the COVID downtime I will read and listen and watch for voices who can guide us in imagining a different America. I want to keep a record of my learning. I’ll start with one reading and update this post as I find others with history and and guidance to ways forward.
Imani Perry: A Little Patch of Something (Paris Review)
John Edwin Mason: Photos can show protests’ complexity–or they can perpetuate old lies (National Geographic)
Michelle Alexander: America, This Is Your Chance (New York Times)